Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente
Robert McNamara (1916- ) is an American business executive, statesman, and diplomat. In 1960, he left his seat as president of the Ford Motor Company to accept an invitation from President Kennedy to become U.S. Secretary of Defense. A key adviser to the president during the Cuban Missile Crisis, McNamara is most famous (or infamous) today as the prime architect of the disastrous American intervention in the Vietnam War.
In the early 1960s, McNamara developed the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction, which held that in a world in which both the US and USSR possessed enough nuclear weapons to wipe each other off the map, both sides' fears of nuclear retaliation would prevent either from ever using the weapons for aggressive purposes. Thus nuclear weapons were the best deterrent against nuclear war. Although critics decried McNamara's nuclear "balance of terror" policy as mad (MAD, conveniently, was the acronym for Mutual Assured Destruction), McNamara believed his policy would help maintain a stable nuclear world.